Thursday, March 30, 2017

24 Hour Racing.

Team Ireland at the 24 hour World Championships 2013.

With the 24 Hour World Championships (incorporating the 24 Hour Irish Championship) taking place in Belfast on the 1st of July 2017, John O' Regan answers some of the commonly asked questions about Ultra Running. (This article was originally published in Irish Runner Magazine)

 How does a time-based race such as a 24-hour differ from a fixed-distance race?

In what we would call a regular race the objective is to cover a set distance in the shortest possible time; in a time-based race the objective is to cover the maximum distance allowed by the clock, in this instance 24 hours

Are breaks and time-outs permitted?

Yes, you’re allowed to take breaks and there are no limits as to how long or how many, but you must inform the race referee and rejoin the course precisely where you left it. Ideally, you won’t take breaks unless of course, you need to use the toilet or for some other pressing reason. For the most part, you need to keep moving forward cause every step counts.

What do you eat during the run?

Again this is highly individualised, but the short answer is not as much as you might think! I’ve heard people talking about how many calories they plan on burning during a race and how they will make up the deficit by consuming the same number. This is neither sensible or practical; much of the energy used en route comes from fat stores and replacing it on the hoof is likely to mean a too-full stomach.
Fuel requirements vary with intensity, and because a 24-hour race should be run at the lower end of your aerobic capacity, your need for carbohydrate should (if you are properly conditioned) decrease as you enter the fat-burning zone. Under such circumstances, you don’t want to be ingesting a fuel that isn’t being utilised; it will sit there and increase the risk of gastric discomfort and cramps.

How do you train?

I doubt you can train specifically for a 24-hour race. It requires more than just a training cycle; the groundwork needs to be done over many months and even years. It is possible for someone without that base to get through an ultra run, but if you want a good result while avoiding injury you need to have the foundations laid and thousands of miles in your legs
Generally, I like to train at a faster pace than I plan to race at, which allows me to step back into my comfort zone on race day. But as the race gets closer I will practice my race pace to get comfortable with the shorter stride and all that goes with it
To maximise my training time I include strength work in the gym, focusing mostly on running strength, which is training the movement and not just the muscle.

How do you recover?

This varies between training and racing. In training, I tend to do only enough to induce a training response, and not so much that I lose the training effect by requiring too much rest. Recovery, in that case, can be an easy run, but between runs, I make sure to get sufficient rest and pay close attention to what I eat
On gym days I tend to increase my protein intake and in the days prior to a long run I eat homemade granola or old-fashioned porridge, and I think doing these little things can start the recovery before the training even begins.
Following on from the 24-hour World Champs I won’t be in any rush to get back to training and from experience, I think I’ll know when the time is right. You’ll hear it said that ultra marathon is mostly mental, but unless you’ve worked hard on the physical the mental can take only so far; it needs the strong body to work with.
If you have a strong mind but a weak body, you are more likely to get injured. There are no shortcuts- to be successful you need to train and put the work in

By John O’Regan

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Time Management

The Runmute.

Not enough hours in the day to do all you want to do?  Exercising for 60 minutes per day can seem time-consuming especially when we feel that we don’t have those 60 minutes to spare, but when you think about it, 60 minutes is a very small portion of the 1440 minutes available in a day.  Now I know that the majority of those minutes are spent working, commuting and sleeping but if you look closely you’ll soon discover that a lot of our daily minutes are actually wasted.  Getting yourself organised and a bit of forward planning could make your day a bit more productive.


Not having enough time is probably the most used excuse for not exercising but the reality is we all have the time and it’s more a matter of priorities and how much you value your health.   Even those with the most demanding of jobs find time to fit exercise into their daily routine as they realise the harm that the lack of exercise can do and more importantly they realise the benefits gained from including some form of daily exercise. 


We can’t make time but we can make the most of it.

You’ve heard it said that time is money and if you think of it in that way then you might be less likely to waste it.  If you do an audit of your typical day and week you should find that windows of opportunity do exist but we have allowed them to close and with a little bit of strategic planning we can re-open them.



  • The Running Commute.  Do you live within a reasonable distance from work?  If yes, then you could try the occasional run to work as this is a very time efficient way to fit in your training.  If this is inconvenient due to lack of showering facilities then you could try running home.  I find that the run home can be invigorating and helps to clear your head rather than falling asleep on a bus or train leaving you feeling lethargic for the rest of the evening.


  • Reclaim your lunch hour:  Do you have access to shower facilities in work?  If yes, then it should be possible to fit in a time based session to ensure you always finish and have time for lunch.  It’ll take a few attemps to get into a routine and work out potential routes but it won’t be wasted time.  As an example, you could run out for 15 mins and then turn and retrace your steps.


  • Look for windows of opportunity:  We all need some downtime but there’s also wasted time.  Do you drop the kids to football practice or similar and wait around for them to finish or drive home only to go out again?  Is there a particular programme on TV that you try avoid but your partner watches?  There are many other similar examples.


  • Keep travel to a minimum:  A run can start from anywhere so rather than wasting time driving to a start point just start from where you are.  The travel time can sometimes be as long or longer than the actual run time.  This saves the need to be packing spare clothes and saves further time.


  • Get it done early:  Try to run as early in the day as you can, as the longer you wait then the less time you have.  Do what you can when you can.


  • Follow the same morning routine at weekends:  Do you get up at 7am Monday to Friday?  Do the same at the weekend and you’ll mange to fit in your run without impacting on your day and it may even give you a few extra hours that would have been spent in bed.   As an added benefit it’ll also make getting up at 7am on the following Monday a lot easier.



You need to do the things that will move your fitness forward and bring your goal closer.


‘Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness’ Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby.

Photo credit: David Craig.